Comparing Paul George's Indiana Pacers to the Reggie Miller Years

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistMay 25, 2013

As Paul George grows into a star for the Indiana Pacers, flashbacks of Reggie Miller taking the Midwestern jewel to the Eastern Conference Finals five times in seven years come to mind.

The last time the Pacers made the conference finals, Reggie Miller was a 38-year-old man, the team was in the process of being handed over to Ron Artest and Jermaine O'Neal (whoops) and Indiana had not yet gone through the infamous "Malice at the Palace."

However, the Pacers had been to five Eastern Conference Finals (but just one NBA Finals) before in Miller's career, building a veritable dynasty of sorts, only to continually fall short nearly every time they made it past the second round of the playoffs.

Of course, this all started way back in 1987, when the Pacers drafted Reggie Miller following a 41-41 season.

Unlike the Pacers of today drafting Paul George in 2010 after a 32-50 season, the Pacers weren't a bad team when they picked up their future franchise player. The ground was really set after adding Rik Smits in the 1988 draft, with Smits starting nearly every game of the 90s at center for the Pacers.

Herb Williams and Wayman Tisdale were traded on consecutive days in '89, leading to Indiana landing (most importantly) Detlef Schrempf, a huge piece of the next five seasons, and Antonio Davis, a definite late bloomer.

Indiana really underwent two critical revamps before the team made its first Eastern Conference Finals, flipping away Chuck Person and Schrempf before the 1992 and 1993 seasons and landing Pooh Richardson and Derrick McKey.

By the 1994 season, the Pacers' first trip to the conference finals, Miller was already 28 and Smits was 27.

It makes the most sense to compare today's Pacers to this '94 team. The two might not be the most similar of teams, but they are both the first great teams in their respective timelines.

Defensively, the 1994 team was sound, but it was a team with a sense of balance, not a defense-first squad like today's Pacers.

Smits was a heady center, and his all-around gigantic frame made him a definite presence. His light rebounding numbers notwithstanding, he was generally a smart player around the bucket.

Standing next to Smits was a big, mean man. Dale Davis was the real muscle of the team, inhaling rebounds and dishing out punishment whenever an offensive player broke past the first line of defense.

McKey was the team's third scoring option in the early days of its greatness. He was really ahead of his time in that he often slid into the small forward spot, despite being a solid build for a '90s-era power forward.

Of course, the Pacers also had Miller at shooting guard, and by the time 1994 rolled around, he was the veteran leader of a middle-aged basketball team.

At point guard, they had a committee of sorts, getting a ton of starts from hardly remembered Haywoode Workman in '94, a few from the injured Richardson and some sixth-man play and spot starts from Byron Scott.

The core makeup of the two teams seems eerily similar, but that's as far as the likenesses go.

Paul George and Reggie Miller are obvious parallels simply because they are the best guys on the squad and both play from the wing.

However, both teams have a very evident inside-out makeup.

With Smits and Davis looking very much like Roy Hibbert (enormous center with a still-developing offensive game) and David West (Herculean power forward, although a much better shooter than Davis would ever be), the '94 Pacers and the '13 Pacers absolutely punish teams trying to score in the paint.

From there, the two teams diverge and the obvious differences start to show up.

McKey, Indiana's other winger, was a crucial part of the team's offense, whereas Lance Stephenson is merely a contributor on offense who does much of his work on the defensive end.

George Hill has an offensive edge over any point guard the '94 Pacers put on the floor, although the '94 Pacers' depth at point guard is something the 2013 squad can only dream of.

Antonio Davis and Tyler Hansbrough are about as different as two reserve big men can be. Where Hansbrough is all energy, with any point he scores being icing on the cake, Davis could at least handle himself with some amount of poise around the basket while playing defense like a stone wall.

Style-wise, these two teams become even more different.

The '94 Pacers were known for their extremely efficient offense, leading the league in three-point percentage and ranking second in overall field goal percentage.

This year's Pacers were in the bottom third in the league for both three-point and field goal percentages, but they made up for it with a fifth-place finish in offensive rebounding and a defense that held teams to the lowest shooting percentage from inside and outside of the three-point line.

It seems hard to imagine this incarnation of the Pacers ever looking too much like the '90s Pacers. As changes popped up throughout the decade, Indiana's style never changed too much until the 1999 season, when defense went out the window.

Indiana was always content with having a good defense, but the calling card of the team was always the stellar offense.

The next few seasons will be interesting to watch from a basketball standpoint, just to compare how the team evolves.

It seems to make sense for the Pacers to continue to champion their defense in the coming years while methodically improving their offense along the way, much like Miller's Pacers touting offensive dominance while slowly building up the defense over the years.

There is one main comparison to take away when you look at the '94 Pacers and the present-day squad: Both are top-tier teams regardless of their style, though today's Pacers boasts a much younger core.


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